The Road to the Stars – Chapter Sixteen
It’s funny what you remember, and what you forget.
Take the implants.
These days, implants are pretty much standard for any citizen of the Terran Federation. There are always a few who refuse them, or who ask to have them removed when they reach their majority, but I’d say that probably 90-95% of the population have them, and have had them since they were children.
(Yes, I know; I could use my implant to get the exact percentage, but hey, I’m one of the few who remembers a time before implants. I like to pretend, now and again.)
In 2118, though, we were just beginning to start a rollout to a few key people, and Cass and I had had them for just a few years. For those people, getting an implant was A Big Deal. Here we were, selling the idea of cracking open their jaw and putting in a device which could, well, do magic.
Alley was a tough sell. But she wanted Enterprise, probably more than she’d wanted anything in her life, and so she agreed.
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The next fortnight was furiously busy for Alley.
She and Kendra spent most of the flight back to HLC discussing details of her new position. It was agreed that she would resign from the NIN, using the remainder of her accumulated leave to stay in Houston while the mustering-out clock ran down instead of returning to the Imperium. As Alley predicted, there was only a pro forma protest from her superiors; she was anathema to anyone who wanted to keep their professional future intact.
Kendra announced that she would be spending most of her time at her office at HLC, instead of JPL, until Alley was fully up to speed and ready to be aboard the Enterprise full-time. “I’ll introduce you around to the crew from JPL as well as Cass’s people here,” she said. “Always important to be on good terms with the people who are building the equipment you depend on.”
Alley did meet with Cass that night and, over dinner and a long night of wine, punctuated by interruptions by Kendra, got the detailed explanations for the exotic technology the Enterprise incorporated, including Cass’s quantum teleportation modules. That gave her a headache that lasted for a full day. She also learned about the application of quantum mechanics that allowed their FTL communications and sensor arrays; at least, she learned enough to know that it was way above her pay grade.
She and Kendra reviewed the possibilities for arming the ship. They agreed that missiles weren’t practical for the nearly-complete starship, though there could be a way to integrate them into the Endeavour. Alley was strongly in favor of the spinal laser and was practically drooling over the possibility of delivering two petajoules of power on target. She also thought that using the emitters for close-in defense was wise, given the limitations on the shielding.
Toward the end of the first week, Kendra informed Alley that she’d made the appointment to get the implant placed.
“What, exactly, is this implant?”
“If you think of it as a cross between a padd, comm, and mass storage device, combined with a built-in net node, you’d be pretty close.”
“And it’s called an implant…”
“Because it’s implanted into you, yeah.”
“The usual place is in the jawbone. That helps with the comm function, though you can send messages without talking easily enough.”
Alley winced and unconsciously rubbed her jawline. Realizing what she was doing, she dropped her hand.
“It also serves as a nanobot factory,” added Kendra.
“Well. Yeah.” Kendra saw the look of incipient rebellion on Alley’s face and hurried to head it off.
“Look, I was skeptical too. One of Cass’s friends from university days is the brain behind this, and we’ve been supporting him for five years now. He’s taken this tech and brought it so far forward, nobody else on the planet is even within twenty years or two orders of magnitude of the abilities he builds into ‘em.”
“If I’m going to have my jaw cracked open, it had better be worthwhile.”
“You’ll be able to communicate instantly to anyone on our Q-Net –”
“Quantum Network. Carries information of all sorts: audio, video, data. All FTL. The range is variable, but the implant is good for about eight light-minutes, and the prime transmitter here on Earth should be able to reach the heliopause, about fifteen light-hours. We’re going to establish other nodes throughout the system, as and when we can, but until then we’re building them into all of our ships and boats. All the Wolves have a node, good for thirty light-minutes, and the Enterprise’s node is almost as powerful as the prime, twelve light-hours.”
“I can see a problem in the future.”
“You mean the range? Yeah, we haven’t quite figured that out yet.”
“Maybe. That’s one reason for the plans to over the system. We’ve got good people working on it. Anyways, your implant will also allow you to access both AIs, Diana and Enterprise, and tap their information and problem-solving abilities; record what you see and hear; communicate with anyone on the ship; and other things like open hatches and even pilot a Wolf remotely with your command codes.”
“I begin to appreciate the idea.”
“There’s more, and you’ll like this.” I hope, she didn’t say. “The implant will also replenish the nanobots that are part of the standard package.”
“Standard package? How many of these have you done?”
“Everyone who works for HLC who goes into the black, and most of the agents for OutLook, plus a few others. What the nanobots do is patrol your body, scavenging waste to convert to power for the implant, acting as a second immune system, improving all your body’s functions, and repairing damage to your cells. Once you’re implanted and the ‘bots have a chance to fully circulate, you won’t get so much as a sniffle again. That sunburn damage? It’ll get repaired. Family history of cancer? Not a problem. They also help your gut process food and nutrients more efficiently, so you can go further on less. And, once the ‘plant has your DNA fully scanned, they’ll note and repair any damaged strands that they find.”
“How many of these things are we talking about?”
“We generally aim to replace about a quarter of your normal bacterial load with “bots.” Kendra was careful not to give an exact number. “The initial load is only a couple thousand, but they will use the factory capability to increase quickly. And they’ll use biologicals – the bacteria they’re replacing – as raw material.”
Kendra could see Alley chewing over the information.
“I assume I need these to command?”
“Well, not need, precisely, but it will make your command much easier for you.”
“That makes it pretty simple. How long will I be out?”
“The procedure takes a few hours, but recovery is only a day or two. One of their primary tasks is to repair the damage done by the surgery.”
The surgery, a couple days later, went smoothly, and the recovery was just as quick as Kendra had promised. She got her initial familiarization and training on using the ‘plant, and started to get comfortable with having the tech in her jaw. Towards the end of the second week, when she was fully up and around again, Alley went to check in with Kendra.
“Hey Alley,” said Kendra. “How are you feeling?”
“Surprisingly good, considering. What else do these “bots do?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I can hear notes that I haven’t heard since my ears were pressure damaged in ‘14. I can see clearer, and farther, and I think I can see more colors, though that may just be my imagination. And when I went for my usual five klik run this morning, I did it in three minutes less than my best time and didn’t even break a sweat.”
“Good! They’re doing their jobs.”
“Doing their jobs?”
“They’ve made your body more efficient. Some of that is based on my genetics, though, like the vision. Cass’s friend is constantly scanning people’s DNA; he wants to optimize the base code for Homo sapiens without losing the details that make us each unique. You are seeing more colors, because I can see infrared and ultraviolet and that ability got programmed into the ‘bots.”
“You could say that.” Kendra moved on. “What’s next on the plan?”
“We need a crew. I assume recruiting’s my job?”
Kendra frowned. “To a degree. Some of your crew is pretty well set in stone, just because the tech involved is so specific. Dellin Anderson, for example, is slated to be your chief engineer; she’s been working with Val for six years and knows the drive almost as well as Val. Val tried to talk me into giving the slot to her, but I need Val here to work on the next generation drive.”
“That’s fine, I wouldn’t know a warp engineer from a hole in the ground. Who else?”
“Your lead Astrogator is Phaedra Seabolt; she’s an astronomer who’s been working on a detailed mapping project of the Solar System and the local neighborhood for fourteen years. She can look at a patch of sky and tell you exactly where that is and how far away, if it’s within about a hundred light years.”
“Mia’s your lead pilot for your Wolf squadron. She’s busy training a dozen other pilots to fly her way. They’ll all have secondary duties, so they’re not just taking up bunks, as well as being fully up to speed on the maintenance on their birds.”
“Good. I think those Wolves are going to be more useful than anyone figured. I’ve had some ideas, and I’ll get with Mia about exploring them.”
“Um. Your Science officer, that slot’s filled. I think that’s about it.”
“Does this Science officer have a name?”
“Oh. Yeah. It’s Cass.”
“I don’t joke about my wife, and believe me, I’m not happy about it. But she made a good argument; she’s literally the smartest person I know; I can tell you from personal experience that she’s good in a crunch; and she can fill in just about anywhere in a pinch.”
“Do I have the final say?”
“It’s your ship, Alley. If you really want Cass off, then she’s off. But,” continued Kendra, holding up a hand to forestall Alley’s unformed protest, “I suggest you wait. She’s not even going to be aboard for any length of time until after Enterprise is ready for flight tests. That’s at least six months, maybe more since we’re moving ahead with the laser.”
“When did that come down?”
“Just today. We got the plans back from the drafters. There’s going to be a little bit of disruption in the shuttle bay, and we need to run new power conduits, but it’s not as big a deal as we thought it might be.”
“That’s good news.”
“And as for Cass, once she’s ready to spend more time doing her job here, see what she can do. If, after shaking down, you still aren’t convinced, then I’ll back you all the way. She’s your ship, and your crew.”
Alley nodded. “I can live with that. I just can’t stand the idea of nepotism getting someone a post. You can understand why.”
“I get that. As for the rest of the crew, yes, you can recruit. There’s a list of people in our companies who we think would be good matches, but you can go outside if you feel the need.”
“There’s one person. She was the person who recruited me, I guess, a few years back. I knew her as being the Navy, but I guess she must have been working for OutLook?”
“Do you remember a name?”
“Sanzari. First name Candice. What?” said Alley, seeing the broad grin on Kendra’s face.
“You’re right, she did work for OutLook. She’s head of our personal security these days. Why didn’t you mention her sooner?”
“I didn’t know her well. She must have been on assignment?”
“She was. I don’t know what her purpose was, but I encountered her once on a mission and she seemed to know her stuff.”
“And she was my initial contact with OutLook. Took her several months, so unless she was faking it, she had to be pulling duty aboard a sub.”
“I think she was.”
“I think that experience will be useful on Enterprise. Add to that the training she received from OutLook. Then, you said she’s in charge of your guards?”
“So she knows how to lead and organize small units. Doesn’t translate perfectly into a larger command mindset, but it’s a start.”
“Feel free to chat with her. If you can talk her onto your crew, more power to you! What are you thinking of for a position?”
Kendra considered that before slowly nodding. “I think she’d be a good choice. If you can get her.”
“As for the rest of the crew, I’d appreciate any help and recommendations you and Cass can give me in terms of the people here and JPL.”
“No problem.” Kendra got the faraway ‘plant look while she checked her schedule. “Looks like Tuesday will work for us both. Do you want anyone else from OutLook? If so, we ought to bring Director Montana into the discussion.”
“I’m not sure that their skill sets will be useful on a starship.”
“Valid point. Still, think about it. We can always loop her in through a hololink.” Kendra stood. “Ready to get to your office?”
“What are we waiting for? Get your suit and let’s get you aboard!”
The Road to the Stars – Book 1 – Chapter 16 Audio